Tell me about your book.

When someone asks you straight-up, “Hey, can you tell me about your book?”, how well do you articulate? Do you freeze up and stutter and tell them to consult the summary on the back? Do you have trouble finding the right words to describe your book? Are you able to sell it to people in a few lines before their attention fades away, or do you give them a blurry outline that earns a polite, confused smile out of them, a smile which clearly says, “I have no idea what your book talks about, but good on you for writing it!”

Sadly, that’s what I do.

I’m sitting here, devouring a packet of Sweetarts Jelly Beans (which are very yummy, by the way), staring at a bunch of interview questions sent to me by a blogger who has reviewed Puppet Parade, uncertain of how to answer some of them. Sure it’s my book, but I’m finding it really difficult to come up with answers that won’t sound too ridiculous or make me sound totally clueless about the subjects I’ve addressed.

That’s not to say that I don’t know what my book’s about, because I do. The details are all there in my head, but I don’t know how to express them in words. It’s even worse when someone asks me about it in person, at which point I stare blankly at them for a moment until they say, “Zen? Your book, can you tell me what it’s about?” and I have to scramble to get a copy and shove it under their noses with a triumphant cry of, “Here! Have a summary!”

And don’t get me started on questions about my own person. I feel incredibly self-conscious when talking about myself, and I always worry that I might come off as a snob or a show-off. When I was drawing up my résumé for the first time, I could not find it in me to sit and write it because it felt like showing off, and it took me nearly a month to finally reach a finalized copy.

But I guess for now I should grit my teeth and do the interview as best as I can; as a newbie author, every bit of publicity helps!

Also…

I have to laugh at the tags WordPress suggested – communication disorders, speech disorder, George VI of the United Kingdom (known for stammering), National Stuttering Day… come on! I’m not that bad!

Am I? Please tell me I’m not alone in this! =[

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32 thoughts on “Tell me about your book.

  1. You are so not alone in this. I figure if someone is asking answering is not bragging. Mind you that doesn’t mean I’m capable of articulating an answer. I do have one or two answers for the questions I get most frequently. I work at saying them like they’re fresh rather than rehearsed, but practice is the only reason I can get them out at all. Good luck with the blogger interview!

    • Thank you for your reply. I’m relieved to hear that other writers have this problem too! Though keeping a couple of answers on standby is a pretty good idea; I think I’ll give that a shot. =D

  2. I have the same issues. Whenever people find out I’ve written a book and they ask me what it is about, I just say: “Oh, you know..its a fantasy..” I hate having to describe it to people on the spot!

  3. I’m the same way. I say it’s a romance with a HEA. Just read it already! LOL!. I have the same problem when I read someone else’s book and go to write a review, I tell people it was a great read and give it five stars, etc. but summing up the story is like writing a query letter and heaven knows I am terrible at that!

    • Exactly! I mean, the summary’s right there, and if you want to have an idea about the book, just take a look! Also, I’ve found that a helpful way to write a review is to make a few notes while reading. This way when you’re done, you can use these notes as pointers for a proper review. =D

    • That’s what I do! What readers sometimes don’t understand is that a book is a personal thing to the writer, even if it’s read by many, and you can’t just talk about personal things on the spot.

      • Lucky for me, despite my blathering about my book, they STILL wanted to read it. Even better, they loved it. Or, they are all big fat liars and just told me they loved it so I would go away.

        • Oh I’m sure it’s not like that! And if they wanted to read your book after that, then that must mean it’s good!

  4. I feel your pain – I’m planning on self-publishing too, but I’m still going to think up the same ten-second ‘elevator pitch’ that I would use if I somehow bumped into an agent. Then I can just wheel that out whenever someone asks the dreaded ‘what’s it about?’.

    I’m still going to get a lot of confused smiles though, because it’ll be something like:
    “Representatives from four feuding factions of humanity are each offered the chance to see a legendary artefact which may hold the key to immortality. After clashing when they meet, they form an uneasy alliance before discovering they’ve been misled: they must find a mythical deity, and save humanity’s future.”

    Oh well. Sci-fi fans might like it 🙂

    • I don’t think I have an elevator pitch; I find it incredibly difficult to sum up a story I’ve worked so hard on in a couple of sentences. But I wish you good luck in that, because it would certainly be useful!

      And that sounds interesting though! I guess the key would be to recite this pitch slowly and clearly so that the receiving person doesn’t get overwhelmed with info.

  5. Oh, I know exactly what you’re talking about, and you are not alone! I haven’t written a book (yet, hopefully), but still, when talking about my ideas, or even about books I’ve read and loved, I can never sum them up in a clever one-liner. But some good advice on how to write a premise is on the website of Alexandra Sokoloff – I’ve found her blog in general extremely helpful. This is the link for the post on what is a premise (and some help on how to write one):
    http://thedarksalon.blogspot.de/2010/02/whats-your-premise.html

    By the way, I have the same problem with titles. Blog titles, story titles… thinking them up is an excruciatingly painful process for me, because how can one to five words express what your whole story is about?!?

    • Thank you for the link; that was indeed useful! However, I think when someone’s asking you on the spot about what your story’s about, you feel flustered and forget what you’re supposed to say, and that’s where the stammering comes in!

      As for the title, I think it shouldn’t be forced. Just start writing, and the perfect title will eventually present itself to you! =]

  6. It’s usually at that point I have a crisis of confidence regarding the work itself: suddenly, the plot and characters that seemed to flow so naturally suddenly take on the proportions of something out of Dumbo’s fever dream. I find myself thinking: “Christ, did I actually write this?”

    But to overcome the stammering tag trauma, here are some awesome chocolates. http://www.rococochocolates.com/

    • Ahaha, I think I know what you mean by that. Really I think at such points that the characters are misbehaving and/or you’re having Writer’s Block.

      Thank you for commenting! And thank you for introducing me to these chocolates; I will have to give them a try soon!

  7. Haha, I think we all have that problem. My mother loves to brag about my book (soon-to-be-published), which leads to the awkward question “What is it about?”. I usually say something along the lines of “Well, it’s about this girl who gets abducted by aliens, and then she’s rescued by a handsome mercenary alien who is actually immoral and then he sells her to an intergalactic pharmaceutical company that’s secretly evil but then she…” It becomes a giant run-on sentence that gives away every detail of the plot and leaves my listener nodding their head and spacing out. Sigh.

    I read somewhere that you can narrow down your elevator pitch by grabbing a stopwatch, sitting down for two minutes, and just writing down a bunch of words that describe your book. Then you take all the words, which should be the key points of your novel, and turn it into a pitch. I suck at this sort of thing, so it didn’t work for me, but maybe you’ll have better luck 😀

    • Yesss. It’s difficult to actually describe your story without giving away too much, and if you don’t give away too much your story feels too obscure when you put it into words.
      I doubt I’m going to have better luck with that method, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to try!
      Thank you for your comment, and good luck with your upcoming release! =D

  8. You are in good company! Agatha Christie intimated some of the same feelings in her autobiography. My own responses are filled with a lot of ‘umm’… 🙂

  9. Worth Commenting says:

    i am laughing because when people ask me about my book it’s simple: it’s about my life., love, and relationships

  10. I must admit I tend to just say oh its a “fantasy book, its not finished yet…” and hope they don’t ask again. However, I do plan (when the first book is finished) to get the old synopsis cracked then learn it off by heart for just such an occasion – though whether or not I’ll feel confident enough to reel it off is another matter, I’m just a bit self conscious for that.
    Regarding questions about yourself. I really feel me and my private life is just that; private. I want people to buy into the book, not me. I’d rather be a bit of an enigma and let people concentrate on my words. Whether or not that’s possible when, even if you get a good publishing deal, you have to be able to self-promote, I don’t know.

    • I usually start my explanations with “it’s a fantasy book” too, haha. And yeah, a lot of people say you should have a synopsis ready, but the trick is to be able to recite it when the moment comes.
      We all wish our lives could remain private, but unfortunately people like to know about the person who wrote the book. They like to know details about their lives and what might’ve inspired them to write their books. I guess it comes with the territory.

      Thank you for your comment!

  11. A book called ‘Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds’ (Michael Hauge) helped me a lot in learning how to describe what my book was about. Wrapping up 400+ pages of story into a ‘one line’ still challenges me but I find it really useful to be able to do so at an early draft stage too. A log-line keeps me on track 🙂

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